**Editor’s Note: Please click here for a recap of the biggest communications mergers in Q4 2013.**
AT&T has completed its acquisition of Leap Wireless, which operates a prepaid service under the Cricket Communications brand.
The communications giant cleared its final regulatory hurdle when the FCC gave its approval to the $1.2 billion merger on Thursday.
“We find that the public-interest benefits of the proposed transaction outweigh the likelihood of significant public-interest harms, such that overall, the proposed transaction is in the public interest,” the Commission announced.
AT&T gets 5 million new customers in a move that it hopes will make it even more competitive in the prepaid business. The carrier introduced Aio Wireless less than a year ago; Aio customers will now be served by Cricket. The announcement last fall angered enough Aio customers that AT&T issued a statement reassuring them that it will be a smooth transition:
“The brand will change but the essence of what we are will not,” the carrier said on the Aio website. “The new Cricket will build and expand on Aio’s premise of creating wireless without compromise and delivering a simpler, more delightful experience to our customers.”
AT&T says that the “new Cricket will shake up the no-contract segment with a combination of simple, low-cost rate plans; a terrific lineup of smartphones; and a great network experience … with access to AT&T’s nationwide 4G LTE network covering nearly 280 million people.”
AT&T plans to expand Cricket’s presence to more U.S. cities. Cricket’s network currently covers approximately 97 million people in 35 U.S. states; the prepaid provider had 4.57 million customers as of Feb. 28, 2014.
Which is America’s top wireless network? Click here to see what we discovered.**
Follow senior online managing editor @Craig_Galbraith on Twitter.